Monday, April 25, 2011

Who cares about hand gestures?

It's almost startling how many people will relate to me as a public speaking coach by telling me about a training course they took and what it taught them about hand gestures.  I'm here to tell you that unless you are moving your hands, arms, legs or body in some wildly distracting way, (incessant movement, uncomfortable looking confinement, using anything in your hands as a noise maker, weapon, or device other than its intended purpose) you can STOP thinking about gestures at all.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of gesturing, and I admire those who use their hands and bodies as intruments to help them get their message across.  There are those of us, myself included, who can't speak unless we use our hands to help us.  Because this is our natural way of expressing ourselves, using of hands for us is a good thing.

It is NOT such a good thing, however, when people who don't commonly use their hands in normal conversation start trying to gesture when presenting.  If you are among those who have been persuaded by a well meaning presentations trainer to try this, you know how awkward and uncomfortable this feels.  FAKE is the word I would use.  And that is exactly where the trouble begins.

Presenters MUST be authentic, organic, real.  You cannot be any of those things when you're using gestures and mannerisms that are not your own.  It looks inauthentic because it is. What's more, who says you have to be a great gesturer to be a great presenter?  Not I.  And not your audience either.

   It's not about the gestures.  WHO CARES about the gestures?  (aside from presentation trainers).  I say, start a mutiny!  Buck the system!!! Be YOU, hands idly by your side.  If you're really brave try putting one hand in a (gasp) pocket.  (Do take the change and keys out first, however.  Your hand should be resting there, not playing all that metal like a tiny pocket tamborine.) 

How does that feel?  better?  More natural? You betcha.  Are you able to concentrate on your message and your audience? exactly.  NOW we're getting to what really matters.  Gesturing smesturing.  Focus on your audience and your message and you'll have them eating out of your hands, gesturing or no.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dragging George

My late mother- in- law used to tell a great joke.  A man comes in after a day of golf, and his wife asks, "How was golf, honey?"  "Terrible." he replies. "On the third tee George dropped dead."  "Oh my Lord!  That's awful!"  the wife exclaimed.  "What did you do?" "Well," the husband sighed, "for the rest of the day it was; hit the ball, drag George, hit the ball, drag George."

Of course this joke always gets a laugh because it illustrates the obsession and single mindedness of some of the golfers among us.  But I got to thinking about it a different way.  What if we were giving a presentation we'd developed without our audience in mind?  We'd filled it to the brim with all of our insider jargon words and acronyms.  We described the inner workings of our doodads and thingamabobs in intricate detail.  We were sure to include every factoid we could find about our beloved product or service, our business, even ourselves.  We lovingly clicked through our massive deck of slides, smiling and smiling and feeling all aglow, proud as punch to be reading bullet after bullet about, well, us.

Then, when the big day comes, we stand in front of our audience and we begin our presentation.  Sure enough on about the 4th slide our "George" (the audience), drops dead, metaphorically speaking.  Realistically speaking, they simply stop listening.  Their eyes glaze over, they surf their blackberries and iphones.  Throats are cleared, restrooms are visited, seats are vacated.  And yet, on and on we go, hitting our presentation "ball" and dragging our audience along with us.

We know that what makes my mother in law's joke funny is that the golfer's priorities are all messed up.  The focus should have been (say it with me now) GEORGE!  That's right, just as our focus should be the audience, NOT ourselves, our product, our company.

The most important part of any presentation is the audience.  you want them ALIVE, engaged and attentive, nodding their heads in understanding and agreement.  They should be eagerly following you from "tee" (point) to tee.  Never ever should they be dead weight you're dragging through your presentation.  Remember George.  Never forget your audience.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Could I GET any luckier???

Almost five years ago now when I started bespeak, I knew I had a passion for presentations, but I had absolutely no idea how to be in business. I had always been employed by someone else. and someone pretty big.  Luckily for me, my sister is a small business coach.  I had help and advice, cheering on and guidance 24 /7. 

My sister, Diane Helbig, lives in Cleveland, so all of this support was done long distance.  We often talked about how great it would be to be able to do a day of workshops for small business owners and include my presentations/public speaking part into her everything else.  Logistics so far have prevented that from happening.

Well, today, thanks to the miracle of modern technology ( and a little thing called Blog Talk Radio) I was on the "air" as my sister's guest on her bi monthly radio show; "Accelerate Your Business Growth".  I think quite a few people were listening in, but I can tell you that no one had more fun than she and I.

Now that I think about it, that's often the case for the two of us where ever we are, no matter what the occasion or how many other people are there.  She has been my best friend my whole life (and truth be told my only friend for the younger bossier part of it). 

Now despite years and distance, we can share business thrills and fun (and, yeah, she talks me of the ledge every once in a while) and its ups and downs just like everything else we've ever experienced.

I mean, really, could I GET any luckier?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"out of pocket" huh?

Is it just me, or did "out of pocket" used mean that an expense was coming out of your own pocket?  How did it come to mean; out of reach, out of town, out of the office?

No kidding, I thought I was just hanging out with a large number of people who didn't know the correct use of the expresssion, but I guess I'm the one not in the loop.  How does the meaning of something like this get changed?

 In college, we would frequently change the meaning of words to suit ourselves.  My boyfriend and his housemates used the word "houl" to refer to partying.  It actually originated as a hockey player's last name, as in "Houl shoots; he scores!!!"  Somehow he and his friends co opted it to mean something completely different.  (and it could be a noun or a verb, as in "I got houled last night." or "We're having a houlathon.")  This same boyfriend called an angry mood, a "1947 huff".  If I remember correctly, that one had something to do with the huffy bicycle... But hey, these examples are only used among a small group of people, not an entire population.  And they're pretty ridiculous to boot.  How does a phrase like, "Out of pocket" change meaning with no one objecting, no one saying, "I think what you meant to say was..."?

Any ideas?  Examples of your own? I'd love to hear them.